The talk of the town in the HR / People Manager / Business Owner world at the moment is the term “quiet quitting” but just what is quiet quitting and why are people freaking out? Let’s look at it:

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting (I believe) was a term first mentioned on the TikTok platform and refers to a situation where an employee stops going above and beyond in their role, and only performs what is required of them, and what they are compensated for. In a practical sense this may look like this:

·     Arriving to and leaving work right on time

·     No longer actively seeking out new projects or work

·     Reducing participation in team discussions and not offering creative/new ideas or inputs to leaders

·     Holding their employer accountable to what they were employed to do (i.e., no more going and getting coffees for the boss, not picking up other projects because a colleague resigned and hasn’t been replaced).

In reality, quiet quitting is not really quitting at all, it’s more about setting boundaries and expectations that go both ways in the workplace.

Quiet Quitting | wattsnext group
Photo by Valeria Ushakova from Pexels

Why do employees quiet quitting instead of just finding a new role?

Of course, from time to time you will see individuals who try to hack a system – be difficult on purpose for no reason other than self-benefit, but people are generally not like this, we simply remember these ones more vividly due to how it affects our emotions.

In my view it often comes down to three things:

1.    You are not leading effectively or fairly

2.    The individual is going through something that is impacting them (physically or mentally)

3.    They see the hardships in our society and have had enough, trying to do what they see as fair (for example, seeing that wages have stagnated despite increasing productivity and costs, and an increase in mental health illnesses that are either caused by or exacerbated by work-related impacts etc.).

As humans, we all naturally (at least to some degree) fear change and the unknown, quitting and seeking new employment is a massive change that not only has direct impacts (such as adjusting to new work/colleagues/commute times) but also indirect impacts – they are more worried about career goals, finding the right place and having a secure, stable income. For this reason, when one of the above three things occurs it’s pretty reasonable for a person to look at a situation and take action that has the least amount of change with the most benefit for them.

Why are employees doing this to me/my business?

It is rare for a person to stop putting in effort or cease going above and beyond for no reason, there is usually what I like to call a triggering event. That is, something at some time happened that sparked a change in their behaviour. Whether this is because of internal factors (poor leadership, lack of recognition, compensation, flexibility, or a mix of all 3) or external factors (health, personal change, perceptions of an unfair society) – only you as a leader can find out by engaging your employees (which will ultimately help you tailor a solution – more on that below).  

So what the heck do I do about this?

Ensure you are actively (and always) working on engaging your workforce through a delicate balance of various actions such as:

·     Compensation and benefits (such as flexibility)

·     Recognition and respectful workplaces

·     Tailoring your approach – people are unique and how we manage, inspire, and ultimately get the most out of employees is by treating them as an individual in some areas, and a collective in others.

Of course, you do need to be careful about going too far – compensating employees too much could cause your business to fail, and being too flexible might see you unable to service customer demands and impact growth or operations.

Human Resources isn’t an exact science, the best way to achieve ideal outcomes for everyone involved is to be open, and fair and to consult with employees rather than just expecting them to get on board. Sure, quiet quitting might be a fad that fades when (and it might be a while) the labour market loosens, but we’ve seen this before – haven’t you heard of coasting?

Read more about our CEO’s perspective on quiet quitting here.

Author: Andrew Suttor
Andrew is a passionate and experienced HR Generalist who thrives in complex environments and working with senior stakeholders to achieve objectives. With a passion for problem solving, Andrew is the ideal super-star to pick up any problem, identify root causes and implement proactive solutions to achieve sustainable, long-term outcomes that make day-to-day business management easier for our valued clients.